If you’ll be using a fireplace, wood stove, or kerosene heater, install a smoke detector and a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector near the area to be heated. Test them monthly and replace batteries twice a year.
Keep a multipurpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher nearby.
All fuel-burning equipment should be vented to the outside.
Each winter season have your furnace system and vent checked by a qualified technician to ensure they are functioning properly.
If you or a loved one are over 65 years old, place an easy-to-read thermometer in an indoor location where you will see it frequently. Our ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age. Older adults are more susceptible to health problems caused by cold. Check the temperature of your home often during the winter months.
Listen to weather forecasts regularly and check your emergency supplies, including your emergency food and water supply, whenever you are expecting a winter storm or extreme cold. Even though we can’t always predict extreme cold in advance, weather forecasts can sometimes give you several days of notice to prepare.
Extreme cold can cause water pipes in your home to freeze and sometimes rupture or break. When you are expecting very cold or freezing temperatures:
Leave all water taps slightly open so they drip continuously.
Keep the temperature inside your home warm.
Allow heated air to reach pipes. For example, open cabinet doors beneath the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
If your pipes do freeze, do not thaw them with a torch. Thaw the pipes slowly with warm air from an electric hair dryer.
If you cannot thaw your pipes, or the pipes have broken open, use bottled water or get water from a neighbor’s home.
As an emergency measure, if no other water is available, snow can be melted for water. Bringing water to a rolling boil for one minute will kill most germs but won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.
Eating well-balanced meals will help you stay warmer. Do not drink alcoholic or caffeinated beverages—they cause your body to lose heat faster. Instead, drink warm, sweet beverages or broth to help keep yourself warm. If you have any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor.
Try to stay indoors during extremely cold weather. Make any trips outside as brief as possible and remember these tips below to protect your health and safety.
Hypothermia (abnormally low body temperature) is a dangerous condition that can happen when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures.
In adults, warning signs of hypothermia include shivering, exhaustion or feeling very tired, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness. In babies, signs include bright red, cold skin, and very low energy.
If you notice any of these signs, take the person’s temperature. If it is below 95° F, the situation is an emergency—get medical attention immediately.
Frostbite is a type of injury caused by freezing. It can lead to a loss of feeling and color in the areas it affects, usually the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation (removing the affected body part).
Signs of frostbite include a white or grayish-yellow skin area, skin that feels unusually firm or waxy, and numbness. If you notice signs of frostbite, seek medical care.
Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many injuries related to cold weather happen from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk
Staying in your car when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice-covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
Do not eat snow because it will lower your body temperature.